Gangsters warned cops away from a “Kurdish street” in Nottingham telling them: “You’re not welcome” as they investigated criminal activity.
Officers probing a number of crimes including the sale of illegal cigarettes, drug dealing and human trafficking were even offered £5,000 bribes to stay away.
But the cops refused their money and repeatedly raided a mini market as part of a crackdown on “criminal behaviour on a commercial scale”.
They seized illegal tobacco worth £34,640 during one search, Nottingham Magistrates’ Court was told.
Cops also discovered an illegal immigrant being kept as a “slave” in a hole so he could pass cigarettes up to the shop.
PC Lee Wilson said: “Illicit tobacco was being used to fund criminality, primarily drug supply and human trafficking. Senior members of Kurdish organised crime have been using it to fund criminality in the Radford Road area.
“A Kurdish businessman offered us £5,000 a month to cease the tobacco investigation.
“With others involved in the operation, we had a search dog and were told, ‘police are not welcome on the street’. It was described as a ‘Kurdish street’.”
The officer told the court shops were filled with “tinned goods and pickled items to create an illusion” but in reality, they exist to supply illegal tobacco.
Intricate hiding places were made by workers – including one controlled by a fake fuse box that could only be opened when a switch was thrown which turned off a magnet controlling the locks.
Fake walls were also built and some cigarettes were hidden in fruit juice containers in case of raids.
District Judge Leo Pyle ordered the Mini Market be closed for three months.
He added: “There are no “no-go” areas in this land. There will never be streets or shops where criminals can go about their business with impunity.
“Every citizen is subject to the rule of law. There is no such thing as a ‘Kurdish street’.”
Trading standards officer Paul Wheddon revealed how a secret cellar was lined with cigarettes with the “failed asylum seeker with no rights in the UK” given the sole task of passing them up.
The judge said: “Effectively it was a cell. He couldn’t get out of it. There was no escape had there been an emergency.”
After the hearing, city council chief trading standards and anti-social behaviour officer Richard Antcliff said: “We see this as a landmark decision by the court which gives us the opportunity to use closure powers on other premises involved in the sale of illegal tobacco products.
“The message to those engaged in this criminal activity is clear: if you continue, it is highly probable that we will close you down.”